Demonstrators hole up in compound venerated by Jews as King David’s tomb and by Christians as site of the Last Supper
By Times of Israel staffMay 25, 2014, 6:14 am
activists Itamar Ben-Gvir, left, Baruch Marzel, center, and Michael Ben
Ari protesting the visit of Pope Francis, on Thursday, May 22, 2014
(photo credit: Lazar Berman/Times of Israel)
Jerusalem police late Saturday night arrested
26 right-wing activists who had holed themselves up in an east Jerusalem
compound venerated by both Jews and Muslims in protest over a planned
visit there by Pope Francis.
say the men were arrested at the Mount Zion building, where Jews
believe the Biblical King David was buried, after they threw rocks and
bottles at them.
All told, some 150 activists participated in the protest. Several police were lightly injured.
The compound, venerated by Christians as the
place where Jesus held his Last Supper, has inspired passions and
ignited tensions, casting a pall over Francis’s scheduled visit there on
On Thursday night, over 1,000 Jews gathered on
Mount Zion for a concert and prayer rally intended to send a message
that the site would remain under Jewish control.
Sitting atop a ridge adjacent to the Old City,
the site is one of several religiously freighted locations in the city
treading a delicate balance governed by an obligation to maintain a
“status quo” set during Ottoman rule.
The building, which also housed a mosque, is also part of a decades-old property dispute between Israel and the Vatican.
Despite official assurances that Israel does
not intend to hand the site over to the Vatican’s sovereignty, the idea
that Jerusalem will transfer control of the site has gained traction in
some religious circles.
Israel says it is in discussions with the
Vatican only over the rights of the Catholic church to hold regular
masses there, something currently prohibited by the status quo.
A planned mass at the site by Francis has
raised hackles among some Orthodox Jews. A number of figures from the
Jewish far right appeared at the rally calling for the pope to skip
On Friday, two Jerusalem residents were arrested for hanging up posters that police say defamed Pope Francis and Christianity.
According to police, dozens more such placards were found in their possession, Israel Radio reported.
“The police and Shin Bet (security service)
have taken out restraining orders against several right-wing activists,
who according to information from Shin Bet are planning to commit
provocative acts during the pope’s visit,” a police spokesman told AFP.